Archive for May, 2013

Review: KARATE FOR LIFE (KARATE BAKA-ICHIDAI) (1977)

Posted in Sonny Chiba with tags , on May 23, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

karateforlife

Starring Sonny Chiba, Hideo Murota, Masashi Nakada, Kohjiro Hongo

Fight Choreography by Sonny Chiba

Directed by Kazuhiro Yamaguchi

The film opens with Masutatsu Oyama (Chiba), now infamous for his fights with a bull and bear, finds himself on the outs with the Japanese Karate society, ‘cause who can respect a guy who beat the crap out of a bull with his bare hands? Surely he wouldn’t be a good martial arts teacher. Oyama gets work as a gangster, and so, to pass the time, Oyama travels to different dojos challenging their teachers. Oyama travels to one particular dojo at the beginning, and fights the entire school during the opening credits, delivering whoop-ass after glorious whoop-ass. The students even cheat, and are still unable to win. Finally Oyama fights the Sensei, and wins, blinding the master in one eye. The Sensei vows revenge, and from there Oyama goes back to his job as a bouncer for the local gangsters. He soon gets an invitation to go to Okinawa and fight in what turns out to be glorified wrestling matches in which Japanese are supposed to lose, to provide entertainment for the American soldiers there. The local mob also controls this enterprise, unknown to Oyama. The mob made three glaring mistakes here:

1. They expected Oyama to lose.

2. They tried to kill him once he decided that no, he doesn’t lose. This is Godd***n Sonny Chiba, people!

3. They didn’t succeed in killing him. A common, fatal mistake for all Sonny Chiba villains.

Before the rampage of blood and death that we know will drastically reduce the population of Okinawa, Oyama has his plane money stolen by a bunch of kid thieves he has to track down. He befriends these children (luckily for them) and tries to work to earn money for them all.  As things do, it turns bad for Oyama and the kids, and all that’s left is revenge. Trust me, Okinawa didn’t have enough graves to put all the dead Oyama left in his wake…

karateforlife3

This is the third film in Sonny Chiba’s Oyama Trilogy, along with Karate Bull Fighter and Karate Bear Fighter, telling the tale of Matsutasu Oyama, one of the greatest karate fighters of all time.  Sonny is, well, Sonny, and he’s as good as ever. The other actors are all good with their parts, and many of them are Sonny Chiba mainstays. The fights are good, but there are no rivers of blood here like in Chiba’s other films, but that doesn’t take anything away from them. The fights still show off Chiba’s karate style very nicely, but as I warn in any of these kind of reviews, if you are a kung-fu film aficionado, you may have to adjust to the pacing of the karate fights here. The tempo and cadence are different from Hong Kong fare, so go into the film with that in mind.

karateforlife1

The scenes with the kids were odd compared to Oyama’s new venture as a gangster, which in itself was odd compared to Chiba’s portrayal of Oyama in the previous film, which, if you read my review of Karate Bull Fighter, that film also suffered from a contradiction from the first half of the film to the second. The final fight is bigger and better than the previous film, but the the opening of the fight was truncated in a way that was frustrating, but the next round somewhat made up for this (I’m referring to the fight outside of the mob mansion, and then ensuing fight inside.) The mobsters die nastily, and many limbs were broken, as they tend to be in a Sonny Chiba film, but the final fight with the main villain was something to behold. Not because it was good, but because it ripped off the mirror room fight at the end of Enter The Dragon wholesale! I had to roll my eyes at this, and it took me right out of the film.

Best moment: In the fight inside the mob mansion, once Chiba gets a staff and starts wrecking house, he sweeps a guy off his fight and stabs the guy with the staff, and to put all his weight one it he strikes what has to be one of the coolest “see me now, bitches?” poses in the history of ever.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

Chiba brings the goods as normal in an adventure slightly better than his previous outing as Oyama. Much karate mayhem ensues, but it’s not as crazy as most of Chiba’s films.

Advertisements

Indie Kick Review: FlashDrive (2012)

Posted in Franklin Correa with tags , , on May 15, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

flashdrive3

Starring Franklin Correa, Janet Miranda, Emilio Pantero, Gerard Adimando

Fight Choreography by Franklin Correa

Directed by Franklin Correa

Flashdrive is an independent film by stuntman/actor Franklin Correa about drug dealers and the price a reporter pays to “out” them, and the revenge that follows.

The film starts as we need Ashley Romano (Miranda), a journalist trying to get scoop on a group of local drug dealers. She acquires a flashdrive from her contacts, who is killed not long after by the viscous Antonio (Pantero), a dealer who wants the drive and the potential money it contains. Poor Ashley is found by Antonio’s goons, and she is killed in a surprisingly visceral scene. We then follow Johnny Franco, a mixed martial artist and Ashley’s boyfriend, who gets the drive and finds out what’s on it, and uses it knowing it will draw out Ashley’s killers, and soon enough he comes face to face with Antonio…

flashdrive2

Flashdrive had a lot of promise and requires patience to watch. The story moves along at its own pace, and not as fast as what I am admittedly used to. The actors do okay, and Emilio Pantero is great as Antonio, but I felt the film spent too much time with him and not enough letting us get to know Johnny. Janet Miranda does a good job as the beautiful up and coming reporter who meets a bad end. Franklin Correa was merely okay. His acting wasn’t great but not terrible either, just sort of…there. My biggest issue is really with the amount of time spent with the bad guys. I needed to see more of Johnny, and to understand his relationship with Ashely. They never even had a scene together, which was problematic for me to get invested in the story. The film is independent, so not everything will be perfect, and a few camera shots left a lot of what’s called “negative space” (any large areas of space to the right or left of the talent. Audiences expect something to fill the space eventually.) but the biggest visual issue I had was in regard to the lighting, which was not done very well, and can make all the difference in the world. As I watched it online it was on an .avi file, so that may explain the clarity of the film.There were a few points where the audio wasn’t very good either. It would drop out entirely in several moments. Once again, it may have been an issue with the file type I watched it on.

Flashdrive1

The fighting style of the film is mixed martial arts, and those scenes are fine, but there aren’t nearly enough of them (as compared with other indie films done today) and I didn’t have the emotional investment I felt I should have due to not getting to know Ashley or Johnny prior to the events that occur. The CGI effects work (for the gun scenes) was well done, and the choreography followed more realistic martial arts fighting, which was refreshing. I just wish there had be more of them.

Having said what I’ve said, I applaud any project that is able to get off of the ground and get made, and here is no different. There were things to like, such as Emilio Pantero’s performance as Antonio, and the film’s music was also quite good, as were the effects. The film doesn’t resolve itself at the end, leaving things open for a sequel. I hope Franklin Correa gets a chance to make it, having learned a few lessons (mostly technical) from his experiences making this film. I think the next one could be something quite good.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5 

A promising first feature from director Franklin Correa despite the (few) technical problems with the film. I hope to see the sequel with improvements made. It’s all a matter of experience and experimenting. Fine performances from Emilio Pantero and Janet Miranda.

Indie-Kick Trailer: The Price Of Success (2013)

Posted in Laurent Buson with tags , , on May 14, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Thanks to Ain’t It Cool News for this, a martial arts film that’s part Bloodsport and part Saw. I don’t know much about this film, but one name you will recognize is Laurent Buson, the superkicker (of the the two brothers) who took on Iko Iwais in Merantau. I was always wanting to see Laurent in something else, and now I’ve got it! His brother Didier also stars in the film. The action here looks pretty darn good. I can’t wait to see the rest of it! Check out the trailer below!

The Kiai-Kick Podcast is here! So what’s up, Hollywood?!

Posted in Gina Carano, Jackie Chan, RZA with tags , on May 5, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

 

Julius Carry The Last Dragon

My inaugural episode in which I look at the future of Hollywood in martial art cinema, and some comments about Wellgo USA and Dragon Dynasty! Click the player below! I hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Young Master (1980)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Hoi Sang Lee, Hwang In-Sik, Jackie Chan, Shih Kien, Yuen Biao on May 1, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Jackie Chan Young Master

Starring Jackie Chan, Hwang In-Sik, Yuen Biao, Shih Kien, Hoi Sang Lee, Fung Hak On, Fan Mei Sheng, Wei Pai

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan and Fung Hak On

Directed By Jackie Chan

After the death of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan was tabbed as his successor, and producer Lo Wei envisioned another Bruce Lee, and for a time Jackie Chan tried to act like Bruce Lee in a succession of failures that started with New Fists of Fury. It didn’t work for audiences, and it didn’t work for Jackie Chan, who didn’t want to be another Bruce Lee clone. JC was more interested in comedy with his kung fu, and had a few modest hits before Lo Wei offered him on loan to Golden Harvest. JC went to Golden Harvest and had some success with Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow, but it was the massive success of The Drunken Master that would pave the way for this film.

The story begins at a lion dance, as the school of Master (Tien) takes on a rival school. Lung (Chan) and his brother Jing (Wei Pai) were street orphans taken in by the Master and trained in Kung fu, but during the Lion dance Lung finds that Jing has betrayed them and is being paid by the other school to secretly perform the dance for them. The Master eventually finds out and sends Lung off to find Jing and bring him back to the school. Unfortunately Jing has gone back to the other school, and their headmaster has a job for him and his two bodyguards, played by Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak-On: free their Master Kim who is being transported by a group of guards to a new prison. They are successful in freeing Master Kim, but the guards in town mistake Lung for being Jing, and Lung must avoid the police, and in particular the police chief (Kien) and his son (Biao) and somehow clear his name and that of his brother’s by facing Master Kim and defeating him…

Jackie Chan Shih Kien Young Master

This film is a template of what Jackie would be doing the rest of his career: imaginative fight scenes, funny situations, and crazy stunts, which in this film is getting his ass massively kicked by Hwang In-Sik. Yuen Biao is good but there wasn’t enough of him, and Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak On perform just as good as you’d hope, and then once Fung breaks the chains of Master Kim…Hwang In-Sik aka “Nimble” emerges with some next level Hapkido s**t! He proceeds to give the guards a one-time clinic in asswhoopery. He kicks their asses so badly they have to montage this scene! The beatings he delivers is so damn absolute you immediately doubt that Lung could win this fight..without a machine gun at least. The Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao fight is also really good, if the speed of choreography isn’t as fast as the rest of the film.

The fight between Lung and Chief Sang Kung is a lot of fun, especially once Lung gets ahold of the policeman’s pipe. Watching this fight between Jackie Chan and Shih Kien, and then comparing it to Shih Kien’s fight with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon paints the differences between the two in broad strokes, and I wonder if that was intentional. Their mix up later at Chief Sang Kung’s house is a funny comedy of errors that would also become a staple of Jackie Chan’s films.

Yuen Biao Jackie Chan Shih Kien

The final fight between Master Kim (Nimble) and Lung may as well been called The Passion of Jackie Chan, as JC proceeds to take an epic beating from the hapkido master, and is only able to beat him not because his kung-fu was better, but because he simply outlasted his opponent. Nimble proves that badassery does have limits, ‘cause you can only beat someone down for so long before you just…get tired. Hwang In-Sik would prove to be the first in a long line of super-kickers JC would have to face off with over the course of his career.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

The movie that showed Jackie Chan was more than a passing fad, and may truly be the one to carry Bruce Lee’s torch. A fun kung fu comedy that would become the template for Jackie Chan films over the next twenty years.